Loughney: Lam is making us too hot to handle
The sublime skills displayed by Connacht in their win over Munster on Saturday can be traced back to an unique decision made by Pat Lam in his first few months in charge, according to long-serving prop Ronan Loughney.
Lam insisted that each player in the squad had to buy their own ball and carry it with them at all times throughout preseason in the summer of 2013.
And while it is no longer mandatory for a player to have a ball with him at team meetings or training, many still have them in the boot of their cars.
"It was just for preseason," said Loughney, who is now in his 11th season with his native province. "It was something different, but I thought it was an interesting idea. Across the board, the ball handling skills have improved in the team.
"You had to buy or find or borrow your own ball. I bought one, so it was basically just one of things he brought in in preseason was just to highlight the importance of the ball, even for prop forwards like me.
"You had to have the ball with you when you were you in the Sportsground, or when you were coming to a meeting, you had the ball in your hand. Every meeting you had to have your ball with you."
Connacht's superior handling was one of the bedrocks of their first win in Thomond Park in the professional era and keeps them on top of the table with more than one-third of the campaign played.
"For us, a big thing is ball security and that is something that has really improved over the last year," said Loughney.
He missed the opening chunk of the season through injury but returned for the trip to Russia to play Enisei-STM and then the second Challenge Cup win over Brive, while his introduction against Munster on Saturday was his first league action of the season.